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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle!

Shock! And awe!
Despite being a bleary-eyed, jet lagged baby on a Sunday morning, the blaring horns, angry drivers and excruciating dead-stop traffic made it abundantly clear to me: We were back in Israel!

I watched the morning's events from my new car seat (I got promoted!) as we braved Jerusalem traffic and made our way through the morning rush hour today. It has been an odd few days of readjusting to our new time zone starting with the oddest thing of all: 80 degree weather. We left here with our coats and Uggs (my Uggs, mommy's Fuggs - Fake Uggs) in March and returned with t-shirts and sandals. We left when it was rainy, damp and cold and now we have arrived to sun, dust and heat.

It took awhile to arrive. First of all there was the 10-hour flight. Lucas and I impressed myriads of travelers with our stellar behavior and amazing sleeping patterns. And I proved that, barring any natural disaster or hospitable illness, I am an impressive flyer. No pneumonia = good baby (as opposed to the first leg of the flight where I thrashed, moaned and heaved for oxygen for 12 interminable hours). This time I managed to string together hours of sleep in a row on the floor under Lucas' bassinet where my little brother slept well, having taken my advice on how to be a good baby traveler:

Then there was the long taxi ride home where I snoozed again. And then abba's FOUR trips up the FOUR flights of stairs with all of our traveling menagerie.

But the longest part of flying consists of one thing that can last for days: jet lag.

And, take it from me, you cannot tell a baby who wakes up from a nap raring to go at 3 p.m. why waking up - and staying up - at that time is no longer right. Even if it is actually 10 p.m. in the current time zone. It just makes no sense.

And so, after two nights of odd sleeping patterns, my parents determined that the only way to get me back on track was to get me back on my schedule. Accordingly, this morning they loaded us up bright and early to bring me to Shalva.

Now I'm still working on my long-term memory, but you should have seen my face flicker with recognition as we descended in the elevator. I saw the telltale view of Ein Karem and my hospital in the distance. I remembered the balloons painted on the walls. Then I nearly gasped when the elevator stopped at the space-age room. However, nothing compared to my reaction when we arrived at the main area of the daycare. Both my hands went to my head as if to say oy vey! Perhaps the shock culminated with the restrained greetings of Gavriella and Talia who controlled themselves long enough to see if I remembered. It was all so overwhelming that I buried my face in mommy's shoulder and then threw my hands to head time and time again as my young brain got overloaded with history. I was also restrained - if not on the verge of tears of "joy" - as I reacquainted myself with my old stomping grounds and my friends like Epraim and Hallel. It wasn't my easiest day ever, but I managed to get back into the swing of things. I even went to the pool today. Talk about throwing me in the deep end!

Who says I can't sleep? Here's me passing out at Da Nonna
Rosa restaurant, in a sitting position
This followed two consecutive nights of sleeping in my new bedroom: the living room. I am using jet lag as an excuse to not sleep in my crib anymore. So abba, rather coming to my aid every 15 minutes, let me watch Veggie Tales until I fell asleep. He cordoned a safe place in the living room and made the entire floor a bed for the two of us. As a bonus, he got to experience my sleep-time thrashing firsthand as I wiggled around the entire perimeter, but eventually did sleep, albeit in an interrupted pattern. I have to say, this is fun! Almost like camping.

I refused my bed, and meanwhile, Lucas has no bed! Gone was the bassinet we rented in his early months and nowhere to be found is a new crib - or a solution. So his new bedroom is mommy and abba's room. He shares the bed with mommy and Lucie, while pillows cordon him off into a safe place. He had a little run in with jet lag as well, but being mere months old he isn't pulling his weight like I am in challenging mommy and abba. In other words, he is adjusting more quickly.

Ironically, the only empty room is mine and Lucas'!

Lucas and I going for a ride

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Time to Say Goodbye

Nanni had double trouble on her hands for SEVEN full weeks
WIth our visit to Villa Mosconi, Lucas has completed Phase One of his Italian heritage indoctrination after seven weeks in New York. (When it comes to our family, being in New York can qualify, to a good degree, of Italian immersion.) And that means we can now safely return to Israel. With very full stomachs.

When I arrived in New York way back on March 8, all of the trees on Mimi and GongGong's neighborhood were awash in white blossoms. It was almost like snow but instead it was unseasonably warm, pleasant weather. As the weeks passed, we watched the white blossoms recede into green leaves. Now the leaves are fully green and we are leaving behind a verdant - believe it or not - New York City. I guess you can say we passed a season here.

Bye bye New York

That is certainly true for Lucas. Seven weeks is a lifetime in the life of a baby. Well, maybe not technically, but symbolically. The little brother left Israel a little baby and is returning there as a little man. Some of his many milestones include finding his voice in the midst of a loud Italian family, developing his own brand of baby language, adjusting to my screaming and even responding to my soliloquies, laughing, ridding himself of the Nazgul shriek, grasping objects and successfully entering them into his mouth.

Ok so Bob was a large target but he also managed to get
the teething ring into his mouth

Lucas spent quality time with Calvin...

...And of course with Nanni

Lucas got his gazing time thanks to
Nanni who had no problem gazing right back

Lucas and Nanni are at a perfect juncture for each other. While I'm a tad rough and hyper active for a great grandmother, Lucas is at that docile stage where he mainly requires just instant eye contact. In fact, we call him the gazer because direct eye contact brings peace to his soul. Nanni was just the perfect person to provide him with that need. And so gazed they did for most of the trip here.

I also traversed a few milestones as well, although at my advanced age these come more slowly than the infant phase of babyhood. One of the big ones was donning a pair of shoes, an odd but necessary addition to my new phase of life. Others included incessant cruising, dancing, baby steps, Nutella Pizza, pasta fagiole (popularly known as fazul), artichoke ravioli with triple sec sauce and bruschetta. Delicioso!

What are these clunkers on my dainty feet?

The clock is now ticking down to our departure. Three hours until we head to the airport. Sadly, we are leaving behind wonderful family and great times. And sadly, we are going home to fewer friends in Israel.

But go we must. I have other grandparents to entertain. My buddies in my Shalva class are awaiting me as are my teachers, therapists and all my adoring fans. So fare thee well and my next blog will be in a couple of days from the other side of the ocean!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Nutella Nightmare

Fun times with Nanni

My fingers are shaking as I type this due to the influx of sugar into my body thanks to Aunt Beanie, who shoveled way too much nutella into me just a few hours before my hoped for bed time. It all started so innocently at Da Nonna Rosa, an exciting Italian restaurant in the heart of Brooklyn owned by our cousin Franco Spagnoli.

I didn't object to this new and exciting flavor served in the form of pizza. Yes, you heard that right - Nutella Pizza! Divine. But when it came time for bed the sugar sort of erupted into my blood stream sending me into an uncontrolled and frenzied fit of glee that lasted for well over an hour. As you will see in the FIVE videos, which get progressively cuter culminating in uncontainable cuteness in video #5, I was ready to run a marathon un front of an audience at home and while abba reported on my condition to Aunt Beanie, culprit #1, Uncle Richie and Cristine:

I finally gave in to the resulting sugar crash at 10:15, more than one hour after the shenanigans began.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Il Uomo Perfetto

The Man meets The Man

Prior to this NY visit, it was unbeknownst to me that I have a cousin on Popi's side (Popi's first cousin) who, just like me, is considered Il Uomo Perfetto

The Perfect Man. 

I met Carlo Spagnoli during my marathon trip to New York. Unlike ships passing in the night, our trips miraculously coincided. Carlo hails from the small yet indomitable town of Borgo Taro, a tiny mountain village that produced some famous people, like accordionist Pete Spagnoli (my grandfather), Porcini mushrooms and the cows that make Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Carlo came to visit family in the US for just a short week. But lucky for me, for one of his valued stops, he visited Nanni with his nephew Joseph. We found out that same morning that he was making the journey to Long Island. And with that sort of adrenaline, my parents managed to feed and clothe us then throw us in a car in record timing so that we could all converge at Nanni's apartment for our grand meeting of the Perfect Men.  

Bonus: Almost everyone in our family made it despite the
last-minute surprise

Lucas meeting his first genuine off-the-plane Italian!
Carlo was long crowned Il Uomo Perfetto when the famiglia met him in Borgo Taro in 1998. While spying on the Piazza near the Hotel Firenze (where all the men hang out since nobody seems to need to work) the family noted that Carlo is the popular guy around town. He showed my family some of the best places to eat right there in Borgo Taro.

Here I am learning to read Borgesan (an Italian dialect)
with Carlo and Joseph. (Ok it was English)

Here we are with Nanni as Carlo and myself exchange
trade secrets of the Uomo Perfetto

And a successful visit was had by all!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Meeting my Cousin for a Day at the Park

I always ride shotgun

When I was a younger, shier baby, my mommy warned me: I am half Italian and that half of the family makes up for half of the volume in the entire world. If I wanted to be heard, I'd have to speak up.

So I've learned. As you now know, I am a loud and diligent conversationalist. And when I met my cousin Viola for the second time (the first time we met she was a tiny 6 week old and I was a shy 1 year old) in a park the other day I discovered that I met my chatting soul mate! Mommy was right - our family is loud and comprised of chatterboxes!

The Italian dialect word chacheron for chatterbox (spelling?) has been bestowed upon my by Nanni. As you will see in the following videos (plural), this description suits both Viola and I to a tee. There was no dearth of baby talk. And there was no trace of translation into any adult languages. We would like to keep the contents of our conversation a secret.

Zia Em and abba walked Lucas and I along in
the same park on a different day

Sometimes they pretended they were running with us.
Let truth be told, they did this only for the camera.

I was enthralled with the camera lens

I just needed to...

...reach out and touch it

Then I got a ride of another kind

Lucas was with us as well and got this nice shot of himself
under the bridge
With mommy

I needed her sunglasses

And I needed to give yet another speech

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The War on Sleep (continued) and Holiday Photos (completely unrelated!)

Uncle Matt reacquaints himself with Yours Truly while
Lucas gets friendly with GongGong's thumb.

The sad truth is that I have been violently dethroned from my position as the Great Warrior Against Sleep. Lucas reigns supreme. He is so adept at waging war vs sleep in fact that mommy thinks there is a conspiracy afoot to slay her through tedious sleep deprivation tactics.

Yes, Lucas not only fights valiantly in the car seat and stroller, but now he also wars during the night watches. He seems to be getting into the spirit of New York, the city that never sleeps.

But honestly, it doesn't affect him. He still gets his catnaps or whatever he requires to recharge at various intervals during the day. Meanwhile mommy wonders if the need for sleep will ever, in Lucas' life, outweigh his need to eat. At some point, she reasons, Lucas should be more tired than he is hungry and shouldn't have to wake up every couple of hours. But Lucas thinks otherwise and threatens to wake up the entire household if he isn't supplied with midnight lattes.

Or perhaps he is just practicing for being back in Israel and switching his day and night hours over already.

As for me, I am sleeping like a champ now, having made peace with my former nemesis. Although mommy and abba seem to be in disagreement with me over the proper time to wake up. Every day I arise a little bit earlier than the last in order to welcome the sunrise, while my parents insist we do not rise until the sun is firmly ensconced in the sky. Usually someone rudely shuts the shades to try to trick me as to the time, but my internal clock keeps me on track and then I threaten to wake up the entire household.

But let us move on to happier times as I play catch up with my blogs. Last week we had a convergence of holidays and family time, which was great fun. It was Passover and Easter at the same time so we read the story from Exodus and then ate Easter bread all at the same time! What a way to combine the celebrations.

And because we were in New York - unexpectedly I might add (remember the hospital stay during March?) - for the holidays we got to see extra family. First of all, Uncle Matt and Aunt Majda made the seven-hour drive from Virginia to see me and Lucas.

The boys with Nanni. Lucas plays it smart and is always
on his best behavior in front of Nanni.
My cousin, Leah, almost 3 now, came to celebrate Easter with the family. As you can see, I was enthralled by her. Hopefully she was impressed with my Little Man outfit from Borgo Taro in Italy. Mimi bought this outfit for me 10 years ago with hoper and faith that one day I would materialize to don this Italian version of Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Hi Leah, its me Daniel

Leah taught me how to color in a book 

I hope I was a good student! 

With my new eating habits, the adults try to
feed me anywhere I am at the moment, on the go

The great peace treaty: Giants vs. Jets

Who is scaring who?

Random catnap to recharge for the night watch

Babysitting success by Uncle Richie.
He has come a long way (see link).

Friday, April 13, 2012


Mommy is in training for the Baby Biathlon!
It is a funny thing living in a house: you are eye level with the world. When I crawl up to the front door, I can see outside. In Jerusalem, the door only leads to stairs. It is a new thing for me which causes bewilderment and then wonder on my part every time I reach the glass door.

So here I am on vacation and my philosophy is to start the days as soon as I can. That means, usually, 6:15 a.m. In Jerusalem when I have to wake up for school, I don't arise independently. I need nudging to wake up by 6:30 for a 15-minute turn around to catch the bus. Here though I am so chipper at the early hours that I spring up with the sun. I don't understand why the rest of the family doesn't join in. Mommy and abba try to coax me back to sleep so they also can sleep, but I know better. It is good to get an early start! So early in fact that I need my first nap by 9:30.

Mommy was bargaining with me, trying to convince me that it is better to sleep an extra hour in the morning and then take a later, longer nap. But she can't trick me.

And now, here is another episode of utter cuteness captured on video! Mimi has been indoctrinating me on the wonders of Veggie Tales. Not that I needed much convincing. Larry the Cucumber, pictured in this video with me, is the first stuffed toy for which I've shown any true attachment. And maybe I go a bit overboard with my newfound love, but what can I say? I have been known for my theatrics.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Living it up in New York

Zia Em entertains me in the morning before leaving me for work
While here in NY I am up to many things, and the least of them has been blogging since I have such a busy schedule to maintain. In the morning, GongGong whisks me away from my bed to come downstairs and begin my day while Lucas takes over in trying to disrupt my parents' sleep. I will then be fed breakfast by Mimi. Later, as you can see in these photos, my aunt, Zia Em, joins me downstairs to entertain me before she goes off to work, abandoning me for the day. Sigh.

I have had a few play dates, one of which even involved lots of girls. I was the only baby boy with my pick of baby girls with whom to flirt. Overwhelming! Photos will be posted once my photo editor does some downloading. Then I also met a real life Italian! Cousin Carlo is in The US for a quick trip and it happened to coincide with ours. What a treat to hear the ancient dialect of Borgesan from Popi's first cousin! I do believe I must start speaking Italian.

Getting tickled is a very funny prospect
Later on I may visit Nanni, which is a trip highlight. Nanni has more than she can handle with both Lucas and I. She constantly switches her attention between Lucas and I. We put on our best behavior for Nanni so she actually believes that we never cry, whine or protest. Ever. Heehee.

I have, however, earned the name biricchino from Nanni. This lovely Italian word translates as mischievous or impish. Not that I am. I think that nickname has arisen from my sideways glance that always speaks of impending trouble I am planning.

Physical therapy too!

Although I haven't been to Shalva for weeks now, I have started running my own speech therapy sessions. Lucas was my first attendee as you will see in this video. You will also see in this video the obsession with wiping drool off a baby's face, an obsession which strengthens with each generation. For instance, Nanni will use an entire box of tissues on Lucas' chin in one hour just to ensure he is dry at all times. Mimi and GongGong provide about half that amount of wipe-age as do Grandma and Dede in Jerusalem. In contrast, mommy and abba don't bother with even one tissue and just go with the philosophy of letting it all add up to equal one big bath at the end.